International Developments

❖ The White House has “varying degrees of confidence that chemical weapons were used in a limited way” by  Syrian government forces.  They are relying on the Syrian opposition “in gathering facts.”  According to an expert, however: “You need a properly conducted investigation . . . [and sample] that is authentic . . . has not been tampered with”, etc.  Again, the US Army on testing for sarin in soil.

❖ “Obama ‘Red Line’ on Syria Avoids Dealing with Massive Humanitarian Crisis”.

❖ “UN warns Iraq at ‘crossroads,’ calls for calm.”

❖ “Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev moved from hospital to prison”,  the Federal Medical Center at Fort Devens US Army Base, about 40 miles from Boston.

International Finance

Matt Taibbi must read:  “[A] series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector [recently], suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.” Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland–setting rates for a $379 trillion market.

❖ “US Lets Swiss Banks, Accused of Aiding Tax Fraud, Avoid Prosecution with Fines”.   Jail time threat is what changes behavior–not fines, which are just a business cost.  “US Justice For Sale” is the message resulting from the current approach.

❖ “Pressure is mounting on high street retailers and leading brands to put lives ahead of profits and safeguard Bangladeshi factory workers”.  Refusal  by “global retailers to pay for strict nationwide factory inspections is bringing renewed scrutiny . . ..”  Update: 307 dead, 50 more found in rubble; 2200 rescued.

South Korea has decided to pull its remaining 175 workers from the Kaesong factory complex in North Korea, thus ending the sole cooperative effort between the two countries.

Money Matters USA

According to this article, the chained-CPI President Obama is suggesting to use for taxes will be “a very light tap” on the middle class and not a hit. “Taxes are going up on everybody . . .. But they’re really going up on the very richest”.  Here’s the other side of the story.

OH “sold a state prison to Corrections Corporation of America” in 2011. Results: “rampant abuse and abysmal conditions well below state standards”, the prison is overcrowded by 130%, assaults are up by 40%, etc.  Moreover, OH courts are “illegally jailing people because they are too poor to pay their debts”.

Politics USA

President Obama has named “Howard Shelanski . . . as his new regulatory czar, a powerful White House position charged with reviewing regulations proposed by government departments.”   Shelanski has an interesting background (including clerking for Antonin Scalia).

❖ Those dynamos in the Senate voted overnight to end FAA furloughs and keep the nation’s airports running smoothly, since they and their funders don’t like to be inconvenienced.  Then  on to the House where the measure was approved with speed rarely witnessed and sent on to the White House.

The second MS man the FBI seems interested in for those ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama, et al., has gone into hiding.  Bad move.

❖ Former SC Gov and US House Rep. wanna-be Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford (R-SC), is posting on his website the phone numbers of people who call him in response to the House Majority PAC’s suggestion that they ask Sanford why he spent so much money on luxury travel while governor.

❖ Though he lost last year’s race for the US Senate, Denny Rehberg (R-MT), former US Representative, has pluckily decided to give the senate race another whirl.  He may be running against former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT).

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced he will not be running for governor of FL.

Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin (R-MO) is considering staying in politics.  Hopefully, voters will disabuse him of that notion.

Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) has released an ad in his campaign for governor, in which his wife talks about his “personal and professional biography”.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)’s approval numbers went up after he “proposed legislation to strengthen background checks on gun buyers.”

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ “A group of more than 120 cancer researchers and physicians took the unusual step this week of publishing a research paper” that “blasts ethics of $100,000 cancer drugs”.  Yes!

❖ “Trauma centers and emergency departments across the U.S. have been closing at alarming rates”, while need for them remains high.  They’re very expensive to operate. And having people who are un- or under-insured using them inappropriately only adds to the cost, thus increasing the likelihood of closure.

❖ FAIL: “HIV vaccine study halted by US government” after study participants later became infected with the virus.

The War on Women

Bishop Desmond Tutu: “The cost in human suffering, lives decimated, families destroyed, mental anguish, physical trauma. . . the cost of rape is probably bigger than any of us can comprehend.”

Education Directions

❖ An entire industry is springing up, “making children safe” from shooters–a “pink bulletproof rucksack”, “ballistic safety vests”, “ballistic shields [in] classrooms disguised as whiteboards and clipboards”, consultants.

The York City [PA] School District is considering “either turning district schools into charters or an internal reform plan that involves locally managed schools and magnet programs.”  Community members spoke in support of the internal plan.

❖ So, what do you make of this?

Planet Earth News

Alternative to the European Fire Sale–Remunicipalisation!  Paris is home of “two of the biggest water multinationals”, but took back control of its water from them, returned control to public hands, and saved $35m euros in the first year alone.  Similar goings-on in Tanzania, Malaysia, and Hamilton, Canada.

❖ From the journal Entropy:  “Roundup, An Herbicide, Could Be Linked To Parkinson’s, Cancer And Other Health Issues”.

❖ “Sea Surface Temperatures Reach Highest Level in 150 Year On Northeast Continental Shelf”  (from Cape Hatteras, NC to the Gulf of Maine).

❖ “An Iraqi emigre” returned to Iraq, where he’s resurrecting an ancient marshland.

Mixed Bag

❖ “Magical Timelapse of 3 Years of Solar Beauty”

Earth’s core is “as hot as the Sun’s surface.”

Break Time

❖ Ma, Fleck and Hunt Fish Falls